Other than the initial terror inspired by the picking up of our cat from the kennel, today has been a little smoother. I'm thankful. I have no idea how I'll manage when Geoff goes back to work next week, but I'm going to cross that bridge when I get to it. I imagine there will be days when we don't make it out of our PJs, but I guess that'll be ok, too.
Lizzie S. is sleeping now - thank goodness for that blessed bit of afternoon sleep - and Geoff is out with the boys digging for worms. That gives me my first truly quiet house in the past few days...at least while I'm awake.
I've received so many supportive comments and emails, and I can't tell you how grateful I am for them. I haven't been able to respond to many yet, but hopefully I will in good time...and if not, perhaps you'll have the grace to forgive me in these early days at home.
I've had plenty of the suction-cup kisses from Lizzie S. already, but today I got my first kiss from Seth A.. It was so sweet. I was in the midst of plying his face and neck with loud kisses, which made him giggle; suddenly, he just leaned over and planted a quickee on my cheek. I looked at him and said, with a smack of my lips: "Seth Asrat kiss mommy?" He nodded, with a mischievous looking little smile and said "ow." ("yes" in Amharic) That little moment made everything easier...a little more light-hearted.
Sleep has been pretty good so far...both younger kids to bed by around 7:30 and they wake up shortly before 6:00. Both have regressed to needing their diapers at bedtime, but we expected that so it's not a big deal for us. They're great at using the toilet during the day, though, and we blessedly have had no problems in that area...a great aspect of adopting older children!
Food issues haven't really materialized yet...they may still, but so far so good. Many adoptive families describe their children as needing to eat constantly and excessively, to the point of throwing up. So far, I'd describe our kids as having very healthy appetites, and they certainly look forward to the regularity of breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-supper-snack (do you see where I spend a bunch of my time??!!), but they eat good-size portions (sometimes two) and are then comfortable leaving the rest on their plates. Seth A. shrieked a little when he saw Geoff putting some leftover food bits into the garbage earlier today, but didn't dive in after it. Both are adept at using napkins, and I am very glad that I bought two 100-packs of napkins at IKEA just before leaving for Ethiopia, because we're now going through several per meal and it won't take long before we're out again!
Lizzie S. will try pretty much any food (lovely quality) and if she doesn't like it, she delicately spits it out onto a napkin or looks to me with a pained expression on her face that begs to know where she should deposit the despised morsel. I don't think I've seen her refuse to try anything, as of yet...which is a great quality. But heaven help the person who tries to feed her a mouthful...that person will not only get the evil eye, but will be shunned for the next several minutes until that person does something to make her laugh and forget the insult. She must. do. it. on. her. own. She ate about six eggs yesterday morning, followed by a snarfing down of Ethiopian food at lunch time (a shovel would have been handy for both kids when they saw that ET food!), but then ate much less in the afternoon and evening, which seems fairly balanced to me...well, not the eating-six-eggs or shovelling-in-the-ET-food parts, but the fact that it reduced her appetite in a fairly normal manner after eating a lot previously.
Seth A. will often decline new food at first, and it's often after watching Matthew eat something that he will finally try it...and then he seems to like most (definitely not all) foods. He won't eat peanut butter, but loves butter and jam on toast; he calls brown bread "chocolate" because it's brown (and they ate only white bread or injera in Ethiopia) and eats it readily; he adores mango and will eat an entire mango in one sitting after finishing his meal; he loves Ethiopian food and will devour it with the expertise and appetite of a full-grown man, but won't touch the vegetable dishes. He is a very (very) slow eater, and I rejoice in this knowledge because it means he's a perfect fit with our older son, who has been the slowest eater on the planet since the day he was born.
We had the kids at the doctor's office yesterday for their first check-ups, and that went well. They plotted the kids at just under the 3rd percentile on the Canadian growth charts for both weight and height; this tells me they've come a long way since their orphanage medical in November'10 when neither child could be plotted at all, even the African growth charts (which reflect that African children are usually smaller than Canadian children). Even in orphanage care, Seth A. has gained just over ten pounds and grown about five inches in the past seven months; and in that same time, Lizzie S. has gained six pounds and grown between three and four inches. That's pretty incredible, and it's hard for me to imagine how much more they might grow now that they are at home...they still seem so terribly tiny to me. The most important part of the doctor's visit was getting three referrals: to the dermatologist (to deal with some minor scalp fungus issues); to the infectious disease pediatrician (to test for any intestinal parasites); and to the pediatric opthamologist that Matthew goes to (to test their vision). Next stop: setting up a visit to the dentist. Poor Seth A. is certainly going to have to have a bunch of work done; his front teeth look fairly nice (albeit a little brown from not being cleaned well), but he has some rotting molars on the top and bottom that surely can't be that comfortable for him.
Matthew is having a better day today, too. He's struggling some, poor kid. It breaks my heart to see him trying so hard to manage himself, and I have to remind Geoff at times that the annoying behaviours are exactly what we expected would happen. In my opinion, he's doing extremely well under the circumstances: so what if he's burping loudly in an effort to annoy his father or the younger kids; so what if he has walked up behind one of the kids and mimed whacking him on the head and kicking him in the butt (I'm just glad that he wasn't actually doing these things); so what if he has meltdowns occasionally over things that don't seem fair to him (I think I'd feel the same way if my world were rocked the way his has been); and isn't it totally normal for him to be feeling that "having a brother and sister is still ok," but "a bit more annoying" than he thought it would be? I don't know - I think he's doing all right, given the givens. To be perfectly honest, I actually think he's coping a little better than I thought he would. Of course, these are early days yet; but then again, I think things will just improve over time, which might ease his load a little. Geoff and I are trying very hard to give him one-on-one time periodically throughout the day; we've helped him to find a quiet place during the times when one/both of the younger kids are tantruming (the noise is one of the hardest things Matthew struggles with); we've set him up with a few audio books on my ipod that he can listen to for a while in the afternoons; and we're letting him stay up a bit later than he used to, so that he can relax for a while with us together. I hope we can continue these initiatives so that Matthew can still feel like the precious son that he is to us.
Yesterday, we went through the whole bath-shampoo-hair-and-skin-care regime for the first time from scratch. Brown-skinned children require special care so that their skin doesn't turn ashy and dry; they need to have it 'lubed-up' pretty much every day (we're trying out coconut oil at the moment). In addition, hair care is critical, as afro hair dries out extremely quickly and can turn white and break off if not maintained carefully and consistently. I am not, as any regular readers of this blog know, at all good with hair things, so this is going to be a learning area for me. I've felt quite proud of myself just getting a pretty head band into Lizzis S.'s hair on a couple of occasions! Oh, and yesterday I put in a few tiny hair clips (thanks Sheldon and Hilary, for the gift a while back - they were priceless yesterday), which she loved so much that she had Seth A. wanting them in, too...he looked very cute with little lady bug hair clips fastened to the ends of his short hair! They both howled with laughter when I stood them on a chair to see themselves in a mirror!
Emotionally, I've been a little weary, to be honest. Even though we all seem pretty ok re: the time change and jet lag stuff, I think that the adrenaline required to get through the last number of weeks has started to wear off and I'm just plain old tired, emotionally. I struggle with feeling a little guilty when I have to pretend to enjoy all of Lizzie S.'s kisses and cuddles - I'm an affectionate, touchy-feely person but she still feels like a bit of a stranger to me, and the constant wanting to be held and kissed wears on me a little. I put a smile on my face and make it reach my eyes, but sometimes on the inside I have to admit that I feel like pushing her away for a while. I have to remind myself that it's ok to give myself time to feel for her/them what I do for Matthew...it's so much easier and more natural for me to parent Matthew because I know him so well. I worry about how I will fit everything into my day (especially when Geoff goes back to work), when every meal takes at least an hour just sitting at the table (never mind prep and clean-up), when we still haven't finished unpacking from the trip, when the laundry piles are accumulating to the point where Matthew had no clean underwear this morning (not that he cared!), when tantrums eat up a good chunk of every day, etc etc etc. I'm just tired. And then I feel like a little bit of an autonoman (sp??) when it comes to getting through the day, and feeling like I need to feel more than I do. I worry that I've wrecked our harmony as a family, even though I know these are early days, and I feel so sad for what Matthew is going through, despite our best efforts. I know that all of the good and loving feelings will come, and they're already there to some extent, and I know in my head that this is pretty normal...but I still feel badly that not all of the emotions are accompanying the actions. Maybe I shouldn't even say these things out loud, I don't know.
But then there are some awesome moments that make it all worthwhile. Like this morning, when I finally did my first at-home load of laundry. Seth A. was wanting to see what was going on and ended up sitting on the dryer, dumping clothes into the washing machine; when the load had finished, he resumed his spot on top of the dryer and dug out every bit of the clothing (almost falling into the washing machine in his desire to get the clothes) and passed the clothes to Matthew, who threw them into the dryer; when the clothes were dry, it was Seth A. who pulled every article out of the dryer and into the basket; and, amazingly enough, it was him who sat down with me to fold laundry. That child pulled out every piece, one by one; named the person that the article of clothing was for (including undergarments); matched socks into pairs; folded every single towel perfectly; folded Geoff's underwear (and one pair of mine before I grabbed those and did them myself!); learned that I didn't like to fold Matthew's underwear b/c it goes flat into a basket and so imitated that, too; and piled every pile back into the laundry basket for me so that we could take it upstairs and put it all away. Wow - it was so incredible that we video-taped some of it (well, Matthew video-taped it, which means that it may or may not actually show up on the screen!). So there are definitely highlights, even just a few days in.
On that note, I must go. The worm-and-weed diggers are coming in and I suspect there will be lots of mud to contend with. It's been lovely sitting here for almost an hour, doing something I've been longing to do. Thanks for putting up with my all-over-the-place ramblings.